It didn’t take long after his death in 1997 for the indomitable spirt of Fela Kuti, Afrobeat legend, political revolutionary, musician, composer and performer, to rise again. His singular musical cross-pollination of African drumming, Bitches Brew-influenced jazz rock and James Brown-influenced guitar funk has gained cultural currency in the past decade far beyond what he achieved in his lifetime.
The wildly popular Broadway musical about him, Fela! (directed and choreographed by the great Bill T. Jones, and financed in part by Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith) has been nominated for 11 Tony Awards and was recently visited by First Lady Michelle Obama. The upcoming Beyonce Knowles album is said to be heavily influenced by Kuti’s Afrobeat sound.
Below, a fascinating documentary on Fela Kuti titled Music is the Weapon. This intimate 1982 film was directed by Stéphane Tchal-Gadjieff & Jean Jacques Flori.